With the two top teams of the SEC West idle this week, the best of the East division nearly went haywire with the World’s Largest Cocktail Party delivering in every way for one team, and shining a spotlight on troubles for another.
After another exciting weekend, one quarterback got his mojo back, one defense fell apart, and we’ve got a pair of two-horse races ready for massive showdowns in Week 10 with each division potentially on the line.
STUD: Jake Fromm, Georgia
Any rumblings about the ascension of talented freshman quarterback Justin Fields to the starting job were squashed in a big way on Saturday. The Georgia Bulldogs are most definitely Jake Fromm‘s team.
The sophomore from Warner Robbins, Georgia torched an elite Florida defense, completing 17 of 24 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs offense hung 36 points on Florida to remind the Gators that the SEC East is still Georgia’s division.
Fromm and his team are now 7-1 and pacing towards another SEC title game berth if they can knock off No. 11 Kentucky on the road next week.
DUD: Texas A&M Defense
Just when you thought the Aggies were one of college football’s elite teams in 2018, and were pacing towards a top-10 ranking in Jimbo Fisher‘s first season, all that came crashing down thanks to Mississippi State and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
A defense that ranks No. 5 in the nation allowing 89.3 rushing yards per game and are 24th in total defense (330.9 YPG) watched Fitzgerald rack up 329 yards and score four touchdowns, including a 76-yard score to seal the game late. Coming off of a bye week, this is about as bad as it gets for the Aggies.
It’s back to the drawing board as the team is now 5-3 with a road game against a dangerous Auburn Tigers team looming.
STUD: Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky
While running back Benny Snell Jr. has been all the rage in Lexington, it was another second of his name that led the Kentucky Wildcats to their seventh win of 2018.
Bowden, a 6-foot-1 wide receiver from Youngstown, Ohio, absolutely exploded for the best game of his career on Saturday. Bowden grabbed 13 passes for 166 yards — both career highs by a mile — and delivered the biggest play of the game when Kentucky needed it most.
With the score 14-3, the sophomore took a punt 67 yards for a touchdown with 5:18 left to give Kentucky life and close the gap. The Wildcats forced two straight three-and-outs, then scored a walk-off touchdown as time expired to survive and beat the Missouri Tigers, 15-14.
This one almost got away from the Wildcats, who were 0-for-3 on fourth down, but Bowden gets all the credit for saving the day.
DUD: Tennessee’s Fourth Down Playbook
The Volunteers squandered a 21-9 lead to lose to the South Carolina Gamecocks 27-24 to fall to 3-5 on the year, and it was two late-game decisions on fourth down that gave South Carolina the win.
Staring at a 4th-and-7 at South Carolina’s 35-yard line, UT’s Jarrett Guarantano’s pass fell incomplete, and the Gamecocks took over with the score tied at 24. Then, they drove down the field and managed a field goal with just under six minutes left.
On the next drive, Tennessee held the ball for 10 plays before facing another fourth down. Left tackle Marcus Tatum, who was replacing All-SEC caliber Trey Smith after devastating news late last week, was beaten by South Carolina’s D.J. Wonnum for the game-clinching sack. The Gamecocks ran a few more plays to cap their come-from-behind win and send Tennessee back to Knoxville with more questions.
STUD: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
In search of their first SEC win of the year, the Commodores traveled to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks, and it was the junior running back from Nashville who shined the brightest.
Vandy won 45-31 thanks to the best game of Ke’Shawn Vaughn‘s college career. Vaughn racked up 172 rushing yards on 26 carries and scored a career-high three touchdowns including two in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
The transfer from Illinois didn’t play in 2017, but he’s made a name for himself in the SEC in 2018. Vaughn leads the conference in yards per carry (6.81) and is now tied for the third-best mark with eight rushing touchdowns on the season.
Expect to see Vaughn earn a few more mentions among the ‘Studs’ in the SEC before his time is done.
BONUS STUD: Ed Orgeron’s Baton Rouge Voodoo
The biggest game of the college football season is coming at us next weekend when No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 4 LSU, and Ed Orgeron is bringing all the stops he can to this matchup.
Taking in a game between Thompson (AL) and Hewitt-Trussville (AL), the LSU head coach found Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa watching his little brother, Alabama commit Taulia, taking in the game. The two engaged in a quick meet-and-greet where Coach O reportedly told Tua he’s “one of the best players in the country.”
Harmless hello or Baton Rouge voodoo spell specifically targeting Tua? Something tells me Orgeron cast a spell on Tua that only the legendary head coach and Louisiana legend can pull off.